Gradual Progression to Effortless Running with Chi

chi runningRunning is an amazing exercise and something we do instinctively as soon as we are able to stand on our feet. Regular running is a satisfying way to stay in shape, and the new running method “Chi running” promises to revolutionise how you run and increase your well-being. A unique concept, Chi running is a way for everyone regardless of ability and age to exercise, safely without injury or pain. Through Chi running, you will adapt so running becomes low impact and effortless while attuning your mind and body together in harmony.

Chi means bio-energy and life force, which refers to the natural force that exists and moves around within the body to aid function and well-being. Chi nurtures the body and the practice has been prevalent in the Taoism religion for many centuries. Chi is used to keep harmony and balance between mankind and nature, which opens the body to positive energy. The use of Chi has been examined by athletes and has gained acceptance in some quarters, particularly marathon running.

Chi running involves focussing on moving in a natural and efficient way. The emphasis is on form and not speed with the aim to run as one with the road ahead. Relaxation is an important element and this relaxation helps the mind, body and spirit become one with nature.

Exercises that loosen the body are the start point for Chi running. These are based on Tai-Chi movements. Body alignment is vertical when still, but tilted forward while running so gravity assists the runner. Instead of a conventional heel strike to start, Chi runners are encouraged to start with a mid-foot strike. Rhythm needs to be consistent and an even pace maintained during the run while focus is on relaxing body tension, pain, and discomfort.

This new type of holistic running has its detractors and many runners are sceptical. Experts have debated the mid-foot strike issue claiming a change in running style would cause an increase in oxygen consumption, which would be inefficient. However, on the side of approval, Chi running is supposed to be biomechanically more effective meaning injuries are reduced, but no studies have been done to produce evidence.

The objectives of Chi running are to aim for a state of effortlessness with a relaxed body and focussed mind. Performance and speed are not the main objectives, rather gradual progression through an individual set of goals, although long distance runners have successfully used this technique.

Beginners who are interested in a holistic approach to running can find instruction and workshops that guide you through training and techniques. There are also a great number of DVDs and books to introduce the method and philosophy. These books are definitely worth reading before starting training so the objectives are clearly understood by the runner.

Benefits of Chi Running

Mind and Body

Chi running uses the body and mind together. Knowing how to think and move combined is meant to produce running in an ultimate form. With Chi, running, techniques are learned so mind and body can be controlled during the run instead of the body working alone. Simply described, it is running in a meditative state with heightened awareness. This heightened awareness allows attention to be paid to form which will help to alleviate the risk of pain or injury. The Chi running state also benefits the conditioning of the mind and body.

New Approach

Chi running is not a matter of following a set of instructions, but is a learning process that works the mind and body. Learning involves combining physics and body movement. This new approach improves the run through gradual progress, but introduces safety for the physical body in injury prevention.

Core Focus

The core of the body is the centre namely the lower back and stomach areas. The core became popular in fitness programmes through Pilates, and the same ideas are used in Chi running. Strengthening the core is central to Chi running as a strong core enables all other muscles in the body to work at their optimum level. This helps take control of how the body moves.

Sports physiologists and coaches have always known there is a connection between visualisation, self-talk and focus and studies have shown that it is easy to disassociate from the run by wearing headphones to listen to music. Many runners want to think of anything except running! However, thoughts change the physiological processes of the body and thoughts can be cues for performance, so Chi running by definition should improve performance by its mindful approach.

Chi running because of its careful loosening exercises and emphasis on core strength seems to be ideal for beginners and those not in the best physical shape. It is also possible to progress from Chi walking to running. Injury prevention by concentrating on the runner’s form and gentle progress makes this technique worth a try.

Denise Colebrooke